California Adventure

Restaurant Review: Hearthstone Lounge at Disney’s Grand Californian

Hey y’all! I hope if you have only learned one thing about me it is that I love Disney and drinking. I guess that’s sort of two things, but you know what I mean. So I obviously seriously love drinking at Disneyland. It’s interesting as someone who grew up going to Disneyland because before California Adventure opened, there was no opportunity to drink in the park. And since Downtown Disney is also relatively new (not really, but in terms of my youth), there was no booze in your Disneyland trip unless you were going to one of the hotel restaurants or bars. So to now have plenty of opportunities to imbibe while at Disney is awesome, to say the least.

I digress. One of my favorite places to drink at Disney is Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand Californian. I love this place because they have great drinks, some yummy appetizers, and lovely air-conditioned seating. During the summer in particular, Hearthstone is a great place to relax in the middle of the day when the heat is at its peak. There is lots of seating, I have never had a problem getting a table, and it is nice and cool. It is also one of the few places you can find a TV at the resort, so if there is a big game on, you can head to Hearthstone to check the score. And now for the goods! Here are just some of the delicious offerings from Hearthstone…


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2016 Food and Wine Festival at California Adventure

At the beginning of April, Disney resurrected the Food and Wine Festival at California Adventure. The last time they held the festival was five or six years ago, and I honestly didn’t even know about it. Since I wasn’t super into food or wine at that time (and there was no Instagram), I probably didn’t even realize it was happening. But as soon as I heard about this year’s festival, I was all about it. Yummy food, wine tasting, and Disney? Hells to the yes. So I signed up for a beverage seminar, grabbed my DBFF (Disney Best Friend Forever) and headed down to California Adventure.

disney food and wine


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Restaurant Review: Napa Rose

If you are at all hungry, you might want to avoid this post. Instead of doing Christmas presents for each other, the hubs and I decided to put present money into a really awesome date night out. After checking out the plethora of fancy restaurants in LA, I stumbled upon the duh choice: Napa Rose. It’s delicious, it’s Disney, and it’s on my 30 by 40 list. Bingo! I made our reservation toward the end of December and the first available date that worked with our crazy schedules happened to be Valentine’s Day weekend. We’re not big on V-Day, but it worked out to be a nice weekend to go. So we sent Squirt off to Grandma’s and headed down to the OC. We got there a little early, but the hostess informed us we could go get a cocktail on the patio. I had never noticed the patio before, even though you can see it from California Adventure. It has a fire pit and quite a few seats and there is a server stationed out there. Apparently it is open seating so you can go enjoy a drink there even if you aren’t eating in the restaurant. We will definitely be hitting up the patio in the future, especially during the summer.

Anyway, we were shown to our table pretty quickly and our waitress came over and explained the concept of the menu, which changes on a regular basis depending on seasonal offerings. We were pretty entranced by the menu as everything sounded delicious.


The hubs finally decided on the filet, which he was kind enough to give me a bite of. It practically melted in my mouth…


I went with the pork, for two reasons: one, I like pork. And two, it came with a bacon tater tot. We joked that the next time we were going to have a date night we were going to order a dozen tots and a bottle of wine. And if they would let me, I totally would.


We also shared a side of the truffle mac n cheese, for obvious reasons. It was as delicious as you would expect.


The one thing I wasn’t 150% impressed with was the dessert menu. I was in for the splurge so I was hoping for something really decadent and everything was pretty light. We ordered this apple pecan goodness and it was tasty, but not the best dessert I’ve ever had. I prefer chocolate. Always.

Everything at Napa Rose is pretty flawless, from the service and the drinks, to the amazing food. We are clearly not going to be eating there on a regular basis given the hefty price tag, but it was a pretty awesome choice for a special date night out. I would highly, highly recommend eating there at least once if you can. It is worth the splurge!

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My Thoughts on the Closing of Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular

Warning: This post might get a wee bit rambly.

The Disney social media world was in quite the tizzy this weekend as many beloved attractions were about to be closed at the Disneyland Resort, some for more than a year while construction of Star Wars Land takes place, and some permanently. Probably the most controversial (and sad) closure was the Aladdin musical that has been housed in the Hyperion Theater at California Adventure for the past thirteen years. While the majority of the other closures were at Disneyland, and for the sole purpose of constructing Star Wars Land, Aladdin was closed to bring in a new show. Frozen. Sigh. The new Frozen musical will be right across the street from the Frozen Sing Along musical show that already exists at DCA and is just another slice in the Frozen takeover pie.

I’m not going to lie to you, I have never been a diehard Aladdin A Musical Spectacular fan. I have a background in theater and I have been seeing professional Broadway productions since I was six. I have high expectations when it comes to live theater, and this show never met them. The sets and costumes are gorgeous and every Genie I have seen has been hilarious, but there was always way too much cheese for my liking. Also, as a tech nerd, the “stunts” and some of the effects (hello sightlines) always left a little something to be desired, especially considering the budget and talent Disney has at its fingertips.

However, I always thought the performers were excellent and I loved the ever-changing jokes of the Genie keeping things fresh and relevant. I went to see the show one last time last week and it was 45 minutes well spent.  And the audience loved it. And anytime you have kids (and adults for that matter) enjoying live theater, I’m cool with it. And while I may not have personally been sad about the closure of this show in particular, I know what it is like to close a show, and I know how emotional it can be, for both cast and crew and their loyal followers.

I’m sure the new show will delight audiences just as much as AAMS, but the Disney diehards like myself will probably be staying away. We might be singing a different tune if the show were being replaced by Tangled or Beauty and the Beast or even Hercules or Tarzan. But because it is Frozen, the sting of the loss burns a little more.

The thing is, I don’t mind change in the parks. Walt would have wanted things to continue to change and evolve, so I am all about that. And honestly, there are very few shows/attractions that have been removed from the parks that I really, truly miss (the exceptions being the Sky Buckets, which were removed for safety reasons, and the Peoplemover, which I still believe has hope of a return). It’s not logical to think that a show is going to stick around for twenty some odd years (I think Fantasmic is probably the only one that has and will). I am 100% cool with changing the park to make room for Star Wars Land and I am 100% cool with bringing in a new show. I just wish it weren’t Frozen. The actions (cough cough price raises) at Disneyland lately have made it clear that the goal is to weed out local passholders and from a financial standpoint, I totally get it. They don’t make as much money off of us as the do the once or twice a year visitors, or even the once every other year visitors. Whether we like it or not, Disney is a business first, and it would be stupid of them to not think about how to make money. And a couple of really smart recent decisions (read Star Wars and Frozen) are making Disney a buttload of money.

So I guess what it comes down to is this: As much as we would like to think that we, the diehard fans, are an important piece of Disney, to the CEOs and decision makers, we’re just not. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I think it’s okay for us to be sad when shows and attractions we love close. To many, they represent a piece of childhood and it’s okay to mourn the loss. But we also have to be realistic and know that these changes will continue to come as long as the parks are open. And while we can be upset, and complain, and rant on Twitter, we can’t change the facts: Disney is a business and they will continue to do what they can to make as much money as they can. And unfortunately, if we really don’t like that fact, the only thing we can do is stop giving them ours. While I understand the sadness of the loss of Aladdin, it is certainly not enough to keep me out of the parks, and I imagine most of the diehards will (eventually) feel the same way.

What are your thoughts on the closing of Aladdin and the forthcoming Frozen musical show? I’m interested to hear your opinions!

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Disney Top Ten: Holiday Time Edition

The holiday season officially comes to an end (in Disney terms anyway) on January 6th.  I’m always a little bit sad to see the holiday goodies and decor packed up and stored away for another year, but it also just makes me that much more excited for the next year to come.  Here are some of my favorite things (in no particular order) about the holidays at the Disneyland Resort, and what I will miss the most!


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Mickey’s Halloween Party

Alright, so if you read my previous post, you know that I got some not so great news as I was leaving Mickey’s Halloween Party, which was a total bummer because up until that point, I had a total blast.  I had never been to the Halloween Party before, and I kind of expected it to be lame, or at the very least, overpriced.  But I had a great experience, and overall a really fun day at the parks.  So we’re going to focus on the positive and talk about the awesome things you can experience at Mickey’s Halloween Party!

My Disney bestie Brianna and I arrived at the parks around 1:30.  Normally you are only permitted entry to Disneyland three hours before the party, but since B and I are both passholders, we wanted to get down there early to spend some time in California Adventure (and since it was a weekday, we needed to get there before rush hour to avoid massive amounts of traffic).  We headed into DCA first, since we knew we would be spending the bulk of our time in Disneyland.  The school district where we work has a random two days off in October so we got to go to the parks on a Monday, which meant it wasn’t super crowded, and we were able to meet up with a couple of other friends who were also visiting.  One of the main reasons we wanted to go to DCA was to check out the Halloween drink special, the Poison Apple-tini.  It was delicious and came with this super cool light up ice cube.

As soon as we entered Disneyland, we headed straight for Space Mountain, which has its own Halloween overlay, Ghost Galaxy. I rarely get the chance to ride Space Mountain, so this was a highlight for me, especially since the line was so short.


We decided to watch the fireworks, which meant by default we watched Paint the Night.  I still really love the parade so it was cool to see it again.  I had never seen the Halloween fireworks before and I really enjoyed them (though B was not a fan of the remixed music).


One of the things I was most looking forward to was the Cadaver Dans and they were just as amazing as I had hoped.  I loved their Halloween medley, floating across the Rivers of America.

We closed out the night stopping along at the numerous candy stations throughout the park.  Originally we thought we might skip the trick or treating, but what’s Halloween without some candy?  The stations were a lot less crowded at the end of the night and we scored a decent amount of loot!

I’m not sure I will go to another Halloween Party until Squirt is old enough to be able to go and appreciate it, but as a first-timer, I really enjoyed myself.  There were some amazing costumes, lots of fun entertainment, cool characters out and about, and candy!  It was also really nice to see the park not packed with people since the crowds have been a little daunting lately.  If I do decide to not renew my pass in the future, I would definitely use the Halloween Party as one of my annual trips.  For the price of admission, you get a lot of park time, plus the added perks.  Overall, it was a great night!

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2015 Disneyland 10k Recap

Well readers, I did it.  If you follow me at all on social media (and if you don’t, like, do it already), you probably saw our trek through the Disneyland 10k course last weekend.  And you may have noticed in the days beforehand how much I was freaking out about not finishing and getting picked up.  The fear was real, y’all.  I was going through some tough hip pain, and to top it all off, I came down with some sort of sinus infection two days before the run.  I thought I wouldn’t make it through, but that didn’t happen and I am so excited to have my first 10k under my belt, and with little to no training at that!  Here is how our race day went…

We arrived at the course “bright” (dark) and early.  Someone was not as happy about it as I was, clearly.  We stayed at the Anaheim Majestic Garden Hotel (the castley looking one right near the freeway), which is the perfect place to stay on a race day.  It was about a ten minute walk from our hotel to the corrals, which was just the right amount of warm up, without being too long of a walk.

We unknowingly ended up in the wrong corral since we just followed the crowd and there wasn’t much direction.  There were these big balloons that apparently had the corral letters on them, but the letters were only on one side and we couldn’t see them from the area where we entered.  So we ended up in D instead of E, which was a bit of a relief for me as I knew it gave us a cushion of time in between us and the pace sweepers.  No one seemed to care about corral assignments, which as a slow goer, was nice.

We had only done runDisney 5ks up until this point and we always managed to snag a spot in the first corral, which meant we could always see and hear all the pre race hype.  We could hear from our spot in the back of this massive crowd, but we couldn’t see much until we were moved into the starting line position, which was a bummer.  We missed Cruella and Maleficent, which would have been fun to see.

The race kicked off on Disneyland Drive and we proceeded through the streets of Anaheim and into the Convention Center plaza.  Side note: I have never seen anyone fall during a race before (except my husband and that was his own fault for messing around on a rainy and wet race course) and we saw four people fall in the first mile.  Scary!  After making our way through the Convention Center, we headed into the backstage area of California Adventure, where we saw these awesome guys.  My husband is a Cal State Fullerton alum and this is the school’s current Varsity Band, which he used to play with (and still does occasionally).  The guy toward the back who’s adjusting his hat is my husband’s best friend (who also married us).  I didn’t get to stop since I was still super concerned about pace at this point, but it was awesome to hear their peppy music as I sped walked by!

When my husband was off with the band for a minute, I happened to meet up with a woman who we had met at our hotel pool the day before.  She was very encouraging the day before and told me as long as I kept up my slow and steady pace I would finish with no problems.  She told me we were moving along with plenty of time and again told me I could do it as long as I kept moving.  Encouragement from total strangers is just one of the many reasons why I love runDisney.  After talking with our new friend, I felt a little more comfortable and we stopped for a few pictures along the rest of the way.

This, sadly, was the best shot we got of our outfits (bad blogger!).  We wanted something simple and since we both already had red bottoms from previous runs, we got two Incredibles shirts and called it a day.  They were cute and comfy and I’m bummed we didn’t get a better pic.  As we made our way through DCA we started to see some characters.  Since the race was villain themed, we got to see some really cool villains that are not out and about every day.  Unfortunately the lines for pics were on the long side and I wasn’t totally confident we could swing pics and still make pace, but I managed to snap some quick glimpses as we went by…

I loved seeing Lotso from Toy Story 3 and King John from Robin Hood.  As a bonus, I also got a pic of strangers rocking their Little Mermaid run costumes.  The race course continued along past Tower of Terror…

And then we made our way into Disneyland, down Main Street and through Tomorrowland.  I had to grab a picture of the Matterhorn…

And Small World…

Then we headed backstage through Disneyland.  It was probably the toughest part of the course for me because I was starting to feel tired and, having run the 5ks multiple times, there wasn’t much to see that I hadn’t seen before.  We did catch a glimpse of the huge Mickey pumpkin though, patiently waiting to take his spot on Main Street…

After reentering the park, we sped through Toontown and into Fantasyland.  This was new race territory for us, so things got a little more exciting as we ran through the castle…

We continued along through the rest of the park and into Downtown Disney.  The last half a mile or so seemed to take forever (I kept telling myself it’s just a walk through Downtown Disney, you’ve done this a million times) but we finally made it to the finish line, near the Disneyland Hotel.  We promptly collected our medals and our snack boxes and made the (super long feeling but actually short) walk back to our hotel where I took the second best shower of my life, only eclipsed by my after wedding shower.

After our showers and a nice nap, we headed back to Downtown Disney to enjoy some college football and quite a few celebratory drinks.  Despite the fact that I walked the entire course, I am pretty freaking proud of myself for finishing the race.  The extreme heat we’ve been facing here in So Cal made it practically impossible to get decent training in so I entered the race vastly unprepared.  But I kept going and stuck to my (slow) pace and I finished.  Now I have even more motivation to get my training going for the Star Wars 10k.  Also, shout out to the hubs for always sticking by me during these races.  He could probably finish in about half the time it takes me, but he always hangs with my slow self so we can cross the finish line together.  All in all, it was a good race and I’m so happy I pushed myself to try a 10k.  Now on to the next!

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